Worried your child has dyslexia? Find out how you can get a diagnosis, what to do next and why dyslexia can be their superpower!
Are you concerned because your child is struggling to learn to read or spell? Do they have great ideas, but struggle to write them down on paper? Do they misread instructions? Are they a bit forgetful?
Have you asked yourself ‘Does my child have dyslexia?’
If you have, you are not alone. Following ‘lockdown learning’ in the summer term, there has been a notable increase in parents questioning whether their child may have dyslexic tendencies.
Having watched their children struggle as they tried to complete the work set by their teachers, many parents are looking for a greater understanding of why their child is struggling and how they can help them, and possibly secure support from school.
In this article we’ll explain what dyslexia is, how you can get a diagnosis and why you shouldn’t worry if your child has it. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is dyslexia?
- What to do if you suspect your child has dyslexia
- Common symptoms of dyslexia in children
- Meeting with your child’s school to discuss your concerns about dyslexia
- Obtaining a dyslexia diagnosis for your child
- Why you shouldn’t worry if you child has dyslexia
- Why dyslexia can be your child’s superpower
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is often considered to be purely a difficulty with spelling and reading. However, it is more wide ranging/far reaching than that.
The British Dyslexia Association describes dyslexia as:
“…a learning difference which primarily affects reading and writing skills. However, it does not only affect these skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing. Dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact on other areas such as organisational skills.“
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK have some degree of dyslexia. Dyslexia can manifest in several ways, with various levels of severity. Even siblings with a dyslexia diagnosis, can display their dyslexic tendencies in different ways.
What to do if you suspect your child has dyslexia
So, why do you think your child has dyslexia? Has someone said something that has made you stop and think? Have you read an article about dyslexia, or listened to a podcast, or maybe even been part of a conversation with a fellow parent whose child has recently been diagnosed, or has your child’s teacher raised concerns?
If you suspect that your child has dyslexia, a good first step is to seek clarity. Although it may feel scary and unsettling for you, as you potentially dive into the unknown, the sooner you have a clear understanding of what dyslexia is and whether your child may be exhibiting characteristics, the quicker you can take action and start to secure appropriate support for your child.
Whilst a checklist will not give a confirmation of dyslexia, it can provide a helpful starting point. Often checklists are broken down into age ranges, as some signs are seen at different stages of development/ages.
You can download dyslexia checklists which notes key indicators of dyslexia for different age groups here.
Note down any points on the list that you believe apply to your child. If you can, add some evidence. For example, times when your child has displayed dyslexic tendencies. By building a picture you will have some points to discuss with school, and potentially an assessor at a later stage.
Don’t forget your gut reaction. Very often mum’s can sense that something isn’t right, even if they can’t quite put their finger on what it is.
Continue tomonitor your child carefully for a few weeks and note any behaviours/actions that fit in with the dyslexia ‘checklist’. Then review the list. Can you see any patterns?
Possible difficulties that you may observe could include regularly struggling to get their ideas onto paper when doing their homework or difficulty with recalling information. They may forget strings of instructions, or they may diligently learn their spellings for a test in class, yet a week later have forgotten how to spell the very same words.
You may notice that your child is struggling with particular areas of the curriculum or that they don’t seem to be learning to read as quickly as their older brother or sister. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have dyslexia. It may be that they are developing skills at a different rate.
Sometimes your child’s rate of learning can slow down, while they consolidate information. That does not necessarily mean that they aren’t going to pick up again and make good progress.
Also, don’t presume that because they scored poorly in a single spelling test, they have dyslexia. Children can drop marks in tests due to tiredness, illness, or other distractions. What you are looking for are patterns over time.
If clear patterns are emerging that match the dyslexia checklist, your next step is to speak to school.
Common symptoms of dyslexia in children
The checklists above give yo a comprehensive list of signs of dslyexia to look out for. But here’s a quick summary from the NHS for different age groups. It’s worth noting that some of these symptoms can have other causes.
Symptoms of dyslexia in preschool children
- Delayed speech development compared with other children of the same age.
- Speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly and jumbling up phrases.
- Problems expressing themselves using spoken language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting sentences together incorrectly.
- Little understanding or appreciation of rhyming words, such as “the cat sat on the mat”, or nursery rhymes.
- Difficulty with, or little interest in, learning letters of the alphabet.
Symptoms of dyslexia in children aged 5-12 years
- Problems learning the names and sounds of letters.
- Spelling that’s unpredictable and inconsistent.
- Putting letters and figures the wrong way round.
- Confusing the order of letters in words
- Reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
- Visual disturbances when reading.
- Answering questions well orally, but having difficulty writing the answer down.
- Difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions.
- Struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet.
- Slow writing speed.
- Poor handwriting.
- Problems copying written language and taking longer than normal to complete written work.
- Poor phonological awareness and word attack skills.
Meeting with your child’s school to discuss your concerns about dyslexia
If you are worried your child may have dyslexia then collect your evidence together and contact school to arrange a meeting to discuss your findings.
Usually your child’s class teacher or form tutor will be first port of call. Ask if it is possible for the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator to be present at the meeting too, as they may be able to provide specialist guidance. The meeting may possibly be held online or via the telephone due to current restrictions.
It’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions to ask the teacher (for example, any particular concerns you may have). Take the list into the meeting with you, along with the checklist and your evidence. It’s absolutely fine for you to refer to it during your discussions.
During the meeting specifically ask whether the teacher has seen evidence of dyslexic tendencies in class. If they have, you can ask how they can support your child going forward and how to go about organising a dyslexia assessment. They might suggest a dyslexia screener test first, to see if they can see any signs, before arranging a full assessment.
Obtaining a dyslexia diagnosis for your child
To formally establish if your child has dyslexia, they will need to complete a diagnostic dyslexia assessment carried out by an appropriately qualified assessor.
Usually this will be an Educational Psychologist or a specialist teacher (Dyslexia). Educational Psychologists use more in-depth cognitive ability tests, which specialist teachers do not have access to. However, specialist teachers are experienced teachers and when reviewing the assessment results, can make recommendations on how to best to support your child, based on their knowledge and experience of working in the classroom.
Diagnostic assessments are usually arranged by the school (The SENCo will be able to provide you with more details about the available assessments). However, you can appoint either an educational Psychologist or a specialist teacher to carry out a private diagnostic dyslexia assessment.
You can find more details on how to find and select an assessor with the necessary qualifications here.
Why you shouldn’t worry if you child has dyslexia
If your child is showing signs of dyslexia, should you worry? It’s not unusual for parents to be concerned about the negative impact a dyslexia diagnosis may have upon their child and their future education.
As a mum it can be scary thinking your child might have dyslexia. How will dyslexia impact upon their schooling? Will they be put in lower sets? Will the teachers mark them down because of their literacy difficulties and ignore the content of their work? Does this mean they can’t study for A levels? Will they be able to go to university or find a decent job because of their dyslexic difficulties?
Please rest assured, a diagnosis of dyslexia does not mean that your child will not achieve and be successful in life.
Many people actually celebrate when they are diagnosed with dyslexia. Why? Because, receiving the diagnosis helps them realise that they aren’t stupid, they just learn in a different way.
This opens the way for them to start to appreciate that they can be just as successful as their peers, they may just need to do things in a different way. Once they understand the areas where they may struggle or find things more challenging, they can start to develop strategies to compensate. They can also identify the areas where they can thrive because of their dyslexia.
Why dyslexia can be your child’s superpower
Dyslexia can in fact provide a range of ADVANTAGES! Some are more well known, for example people with dyslexia are often highly creative. They can see things from a different perspective, which can be extremely helpful when designing or solving problems.
Many companies specifically look to recruit employees with dyslexia as they possess the very skills and talents that will enhance their business. The BDA have even created a great video illustrating how we can see dyslexia differently and see the opportunities here.
As a parent you can empower your child by helping them embrace their dyslexia. By understanding the challenges, how they can compensate and also how they can thrive and succeed because of their dyslexia you can completely change your child’s perception of dyslexia and help them see it as an opportunity.
The Made by Dyslexia charity has a great website which helps people with dyslexia appreciate their uniqueness. You can read more on their website here. It includes interviews with famous people with dyslexia.
Here are just some of the many successful, well known people who have dyslexia:
- Richard Branson
- Agatha Christie
- Jamie Oliver
- Keira Knightley
- Jennifer Aniston
- Lewis Hamilton
According to Orlando Bloom, ‘If you’re dyslexic, it’s kind of your superpower’. By having an inspirational role model, who has dyslexia, your child can start to see what is possible. By understanding that their role model struggled at school but found a pathway through can really help build your child’s self- confidence.
If you suspect your child may be dyslexic, don’t be afraid to investigate further. By understanding how dyslexic tendencies can show up you will have a better understanding of how and where your child may be struggling to access their schoolwork.
You can then ask school for help to support your child in class and, if necessary, arrange an assessment to see if they do have dyslexia.
Should your child receive a diagnosis of dyslexia, by embracing their dyslexia and understanding how they can succeed because of their dyslexia diagnosis, you can help them see a world of opportunities ahead of them.
An empowered parent raises an empowered child
Your child will take their cues – and their approach to life as a whole and dyslexia in particular – from you. So the more positive, empowered and solution-focused you are, the more they will be too.
If you would like a arrange a complimentary 30 minute ‘Decoding Dyslexia’ discovery call please email [email protected] You can also find more ideas on how to you can support your child following their dyslexia diagnosis here.
Photo by Annie Spratt
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